Communism is a political and economic ideology that aims to establish a classless society in which the means of production are owned and controlled collectively by the community. The theory of communism was developed primarily by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in reaction to the tremendous social disparities created by the industrial revolution. Throughout history, numerous countries have attempted to implement communism. Some have succeeded in establishing governments that follow communist principles, while others have experienced failure. This article aims to provide an insight into communism’s features, who came up with it, the countries it works in, and those where it has failed.
Features of Communism
1. Classless society: The main goal of communism is to eliminate social classes and create a society where everyone has equal opportunities and resources.
2. Abolition of private property: Under communism, all property is publicly owned, meaning there would be no private ownership of land or resources.
3. Collective ownership of means of production: Factories, farms, and other means of production are owned by the state or worker’s cooperatives instead of private individuals.
4. Central planning: Economies in a communist society are planned and controlled by the state rather than having markets determine supply and demand.
5. Free education and healthcare: Communism supports access to free education and healthcare for all citizens.
6. Abolition of wage labour: In a communist society, work is meant to benefit everyone; thus, workers receive goods according to their needs rather than wages based on their labour contribution.
Origins of Communism
The concept of communism has roots going back to early Christian communities that practised sharing their possessions. However, modern communism can be traced back to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who laid out their theories in the Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867-1894). These works highlighted the struggle between the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and proletariat (workers) resulting from industrialisation and capitalism. They proposed that a revolution by the working class would eventually lead to the establishment of communism and the end of class struggle.
Countries where Communism has worked
While no country has achieved a pure form of communism, some have experienced varying degrees of success in implementing its principles. Some examples are:
1. Soviet Union (1922-1991): Despite many failures, such as widespread poverty and lack of political freedoms, under their planned economy, the Soviet Union was able to achieve rapid industrialisation and military power.
2. Cuba (1959-present): Cuba’s social policies have successfully provided free healthcare and education to its people. However, its overall effectiveness remains debated, and its economic system has struggled during certain periods.
3. China (1949-present): China initially followed a path similar to the Soviet Union; however, economic reforms in the 1970s allowed it to transition into a more market-based system without entirely giving up its socialist principles.
Countries where Communism has failed
A number of countries have attempted to implement communism but failed for various reasons, such as poor execution, internal conflict, or external pressure. Examples include:
1. Cambodia (1975-1979): Under Pol Pot’s radical communist regime known as the Khmer Rouge, millions were killed due to mass executions, starvation, and forced labour.
2. East Germany (1949-1990): Economic stagnation and an oppressive political structure led to its eventual collapse, followed by reunification with West Germany in 1990.
3. Yugoslavia (1945-1992): Initially successful under Marshal Tito’s leadership, Yugoslavia’s communist federation fell apart due to internal disagreements.
4. USSR (1922-1991): A superpower during the Cold War, the Soviet Union ultimately disintegrated due to economic decline, political corruption, and increased nationalism among its 15 republics.
5. Romania (1947-1989): Under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s totalitarian regime, Romania faced a severe economic downturn, widespread poverty, and human rights abuses that eventually led to a violent revolution in 1989.
6. Poland (1944-1989): Despite an initial period of rapid industrialisation under communist rule, political unrest and a lack of economic freedom led to the rise of the Solidarity movement and a peaceful transition to democracy.
7. Hungary (1949-1989): Suffering from a stagnant economy and heavy reliance on Soviet aid, Hungary underwent a period of reform in the late 1950s while still under communist rule; ultimately, a peaceful transition to democracy occurred in 1989.
8. Czechoslovakia (1948-1993): The communist regime in Czechoslovakia witnessed a growing dissent against one-party rule and experienced an initial attempt at reform known as the Prague Spring; however, it was crushed by the Soviet invasion. The Velvet Revolution eventually brought about the end of communism and separation into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Communism has faced notable challenges and failures across various countries. Factors such as poor execution, internal conflict, economic stagnation, and external pressure have contributed to these failures. China’s blend of communism and capitalism appears to work. As evident from these examples, implementing a successful communist system has been elusive for nations around the world.